Taking Care of a New Baby Article

Holding Your Baby

You are going to hold your baby a lot and will ultimately develop several intuitive methods.

Five Minutes to Get Comfortable

You weigh 180, she weighs 7. You are 6 feet tall, she's 21 inches. She can almost fit in your hand. You might feel awkward, like a clumsy giant, afraid of dropping her. It's natural to have the jitters about handling a newborn, especially if you've never held a baby before.

This is a familiar scene at Boot Camp for New Dads where most of the dads-to-be hold a baby for the first time. Some of the men are downright nervous as they rigidly position themselves to receive the baby being handed to them by a veteran father.

Once the baby is in their arms, they look down and start to check him out. And then they start to relax and that warm and soft baby just seems to mold into their arms. About five minutes is all it takes them to get comfortable.

Your First Time
Sit down, if you can, and have the nurse or doctor place your baby in your arms. Remember, he has a heavy head and weak neck muscles. As the baby is handed to you, make sure that one of your hands is supporting his body and the other is under the back of his head.

Then gradually settle him in so that his head is resting in the crook of your arm and you are holding him. Other pointers include:

  • If you're picking your baby up, slide your hands under her head and her rear and lift her whole body at once.
  • A gentle rocking motion of a few inches side-to-side or up and down will often comfort a baby that starts whimpering.
  • Change her position carefully, maintaining support of her head and neck while protecting the soft spots on her head.
  • When you hand her back, go slowly and get close to the person you are handing her to. It is even better if this person is sitting down.

Suggested Baby Holds
There are a variety of ways to hold a baby, and a few of the best for men include:

  • Carry your baby so his chest is against yours and his head is resting on your shoulder. A very good position for burping, and babies like it because they can look at things over your shoulder.
  • Sit her on your lap with her back resting against you and your hand holding her chest. Then rock back and forth. If you have a rocking chair, all the better.
  • The forearm lift will often calm a fussy baby. Bend one arm and place your baby, tummy down, along the length of your forearm, with his head resting in your open hand and his legs straddling your arm. Bring your arm close to your body for security and then stroke or gently pat his back with your other hand.
  • Laying him tummy down across your knees will also often calm a fussy baby. Stroke or gently pat his back. The best hold is laying your baby across your chest so he can fall asleep listening to and feeling your heartbeat.

Long Time Standing
Babies generally like and need to be held a lot, for long periods. This is an acquired taste for busy fathers who have difficulty finding the time. Part of the solution is to just accept the fact that babies take time.

The other part is to integrate holding a baby with your other activities, particularly relaxing ones like watching TV, talking with friends, reading the newspaper, taking a walk, or even taking a nap.

For some reason, many babies like to be held while you are standing up and in motion, and they can tell the difference. So you may find yourself, for hours a night sometimes, with your baby in your arms, walking or standing while you sway side-to-side. That is why many new fathers will find themselves unconsciously swaying while at work, or elsewhere.


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